By Tom Karst, The Packer

Congress was expected to have little trouble in quickly overturning the May 21 presidential veto of the farm bill, but a legislative foul up will put off final action until after the Memorial Day recess, Capitol Hill staffers and Washington lobbyists said May 22.

The House of Representatives on May 21 overturned the veto, but the bill sent to the White House earlier that day was missing the trade title and the veto was voided.

Capitol Hill staffers, speaking on background, say the legislative mix up occurred when the enrolling clerk failed to print the trade title and include it in the bill that was sent to the White House.

"I've never seen or heard anything like this happening before," says Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

The House on May 22 passed the farm bill again with a new bill number (H.R. 6124), including the trade section, and was set to pass another short-term extension of the existing farm bill, says Tara Smith, lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, the Senate was expected to take up the bill May 22 and also pass a short-term extension.

The final vote on the expected veto by President Bush of the complete version of the farm bill will occur in both chambers of Congress after the Memorial Day recess, which ends June 2, Smith says.

"I don't expect it to get to the president until after the recess," Guenther agrees.

The overwhelming support for the farm bill in both the House and the Senate should prevent the legislation from being derailed by the clerk's mistake, says Kathy Means, vice president of government relations for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

Selected farm bill highlights

  • Expansion of fresh fruit and vegetable program: Mandatory funding is provided at $40 million on Oct. 1; $65 million on July 1, 2009; $101 million on July 1, 2010; $150 million on July 1, 2011; $150 million indexed for inflation according to the CPI-U on July 1, 2012. The funds are targeted at schools with a higher percentage of children eligible for free or reduced priced meals;

  • Specialty-crop block-grant program: Provides mandatory levels of funding in the amounts of: $10 million for fiscal year 2008; $49 million for fiscal year 2009; and $55 million for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2012;

  • Planting flexibility provisions on program crop acreage: Allows a pilot project to allow the production of specified fruits or vegetables for processing for the 2009-2012 crop years;

  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative: Provides $230 million in mandatory funds for fiscal years 2008 through 2012;

  • National organic certification cost share: program: Provides $22 million in mandatory funding;

  • Organic production and market data: Provides $5 million in mandatory funding for organic data collection efforts and authorizes $25 million in appropriations from 2008 to 2012;

  • Pest and disease program: Mandatory funding of $12 million in fiscal 2009, $45 million in 2010, $50 million in 2011 and $50 million in 2012;

  • Market-loss provisions for asparagus producers: Establishes a program to pay those producers growing asparagus for revenue losses during the 2004-07 crop years due to imports. The program provides $15 million in mandatory funding, with half reserved for producers of fresh asparagus and half for producers of processed or frozen asparagus;

  • Seniors farmers market nutrition program: Provides for mandatory funding of $20.6 million per year; and

  • Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops: Annual mandatory funding at $4 million in 2008, rising to $9 million for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
    *Source: U.S. Congress